January 1, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
December has been an exciting month to be a Wildcat. A month jam-packed with memorable moments and exciting games, it was, perhaps, the best way to cap off one of the best years in K-State Athletics history. From underdog wins to record-breaking performances, K-State Sports Extra has listed off the past month's top moments to help ring in the New Year.
11. Jevon Thomas' debut performance in K-State men's basketball's win over Tulane
Freshman Jevon Thomas of Queens, N.Y., saw his first game action on Saturday, Dec. 28, as he helped the Wildcats earn a 72-41 win over Tulane in the Brooklyn Winter Hoops Festival at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Becoming eligible on Dec. 21, after having to sit out the first semester of the season, Thomas finished the gamse with a team-high four assists and a team-tying three steals with two points and two rebounds in 19 minutes of action.
"My first game was pretty exciting. I wasn't really as nervous as I thought I'd be," said Thomas. "I've been waiting 12 months to play. It went different than I thought I would - I thought I'd be more nervous or more tired, but I wasn't that tired and I wasn't that nervous. It just felt like I'd been playing with the guys for a long time."
10. K-State men's basketball defeats undefeated Ole Miss
Marshall Henderson and the Ole Miss Rebels came to town for one of the biggest games of the K-State nonconference schedule on Dec. 6, in Bramlage Coliseum. While the Rebels were then a perfect 6-0, its winning streak came to a halt after falling 61-58 to the Wildcats.
The Wildcats were led on the court by freshman Marcus Foster and junior Thomas Gipson, who finished the game with 15 points each, while freshman Wesley Iwundu nabbed his second double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
"This is a huge win for us, there is no doubt," said head coach Bruce Weber. "We did not play very well and I am not sure that we coached very well, but we fought and toughed it out. We have had similar games with Northern Colorado and Charlotte, but this time we found a way to win. Those games we missed free throws then didn't make plays on the defensive end, but we did tonight."
9. Tyler Lockett named Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year
After his record-breaking, chart-topping season, junior wide receiver Tyler Lockett became the first Wildcat to earn Special Teams Player of the Year honors since Brandon Banks in 2009. Lockett led the Big 12 during the regular season with 151.4 all-purpose yards per game - 22.3 yards per game better than the Big 12's second-place contender. Lockett's 104.2 receiving yards per game during the regular season ranked second in the conference and 11th in the nation.
Lockett was also named a First Team All-Big 12 performer and earned Honorable Mention All-America accolades by the Associated Press.
8. Ryan Mueller named Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year
From walk-on to scholarship player to starter, junior defensive end Ryan Mueller made a huge impact on the Wildcats' defense this season as he played his way to Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year honors. Mueller led his team with 11.5 sacks, which tied for the most single-season sacks in the K-State record books.
Mueller's hard work ethic turned heads this year, and his sack, strip and fumble recovery against Baylor's quarterback Bryce Petty was among the best plays in the Big 12 this season. Mueller was also named a First Team All-Big 12 performer while earning Second Team All-America honors by the Associated Press.
"I'm proud of Ryan," head coach Bill Snyder said. "Ryan was a walk-on in our program and earned his way into receiving the scholarship, earned his way to many of the honors that he's received. The thing that sets Ryan apart from most is the fact that he probably practices as hard as anybody anywhere. What you see on game day is what I see every single day.
"If you had 120 of those guys, life would be a lot easier."
7. Ty Zimmerman becomes the first K-State football player to earn four consecutive all-conference honors
On Dec. 11, senior defensive back Ty Zimmerman was named a First Team All-Big 12 pick, marking the fourth designation of his career. Zimmerman became the first player in school history to earn four straight all-conference accolades and is one of just four Big 12 defensive backs to earn four All-Big 12 honors with at least one being a first-team designation. The Junction City, Kan., returned a Big 12-best two interceptions for touchdowns.
While Zimmerman was out with injury for the Wildcats' final two games of the season, he made a return on Dec. 28, as he helped K-State to a Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl victory, capping off his Wildcat career with his first-ever bowl win.
"I'm going to remember these guys," Zimmerman said after the bowl victory. "You go to battle with them each and every day. People don't really see what goes on in our lives year in and year out. You kind of look at 12 or 13 games in the season, not the sprints during the winter, the times you're out there in the weight vests during the summer. Those kind of things just help you grow, help the camaraderie of the team.
"You might not remember the score of the second or third game of the season, but I'm always going to remember these guys and going to battle with them each and every day."
6. Approximately 5,000 fans show up in Chandler, Ariz., for K-State's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl pep rally
Nearly 5,000 purple-clad fans filled the arena of Rawhide at Wild Horse Pass on Dec. 27, ready to cheer on the Wildcats one last time before taking on the Michigan Wolverines in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. From surprise speaker in Emmy Award winner Eric Stonestreet who opened the pep rally to 1965 K-State alumni General Richard Myers, K-State greats from nationwide showed up ready to support the Cats and reminisce over 2013 - a special year to be a K-Stater.
"2013 has been an incredible year," said K-State Athletics Director John Currie. "We've had championships, we've dedicated three athletics facilities, you have achieved 13 sellouts at Bill Snyder Family Stadium and, of course, we've had a bunch of graduations in Manhattan, including 20 K-State football players."
When the K-State football team showed up, fans cheered and cheered. Team captains Ty Zimmerman, Tyler Lockett, B.J. Finney, Blake Slaughter and Tre Walker were each emotional as they all spent time thanking fans and talking about the upcoming game.
In closing, Bill Snyder stepped to the microphone, thanked the fans once again and then spent some time talking about his team.
"I'm blessed to have them," he said in closing.
5. Tyler Lockett and Dante Barnett Named Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl MVPs
Tyler Lockett and Dante Barnett have been through a lot together. The two have been teammates since the fifth grade and played high school football together at Booker T. Washington, and on Dec. 28, they stood side-by-side after the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to be recognized as offensive and defensive MVPs.
Barnett recorded a team-high eight tackles in the Wildcats' 31-14 win over Michigan, and capped off his season with an interception and 51-yard return to the Michigan seven-yard line, which later resulted in a K-State touchdown. Lockett recorded three receiving touchdowns, tying the K-State single-game and bowl game record, and his 116 receiving yards marked his seventh 100-yard game of the season.
"Being able to grow up with (Barnett) and hang out with him, even with football, I got to see him grow up, mature," said Lockett of Barnett after the game. "He's my roommate now. I can't get away from him. I thank God for this relationship. I just love this dude. He is my brother."
4. K-State men's basketball defeats Gonzaga in Wichita Wildcat Classic
It was Marcus Foster and Thomas Gipson with 14 points apiece who led K-State in its win over Gonzaga on Dec. 21, at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita. The Wildcats knocked off the then-No. 21/15 ranked Bulldogs with a 72-62 victory and stayed perfect in the month of December.
Perhaps the highlight of the game, with 15:58 to go in the game, Foster leaped for a huge, momentum-swinging dunk that put K-State up by eight points.
No. 3 - K-State Men's Basketball Defeats George Washington on New Years Eve
K-State men's basketball stayed perfect in the month of December as it overcame George Washington, 72-55, on New Years Eve in front of a sold-out crowd in Bramlage Coliseum.
"We had given the guys a goal when we left Puerto Rico, in that locker room I had looked at the schedule, and I don't usually look ahead, but I knew we had seven games in December, so I just said our goal to get ourselves back into contention for postseason play is go to be to go undefeated in December," Weber explained. "(Today) was a good team win with a lot of positives - a good, solid overall victory for our guys."
Among the Wildcats toughest nonconference opponents, K-State played some of its best basketball this year and held George Washington to the least amount of points it's scored so far this season.
Senior Shane Southwell led the way for the Wildcats by scoring a career-high 21 points, followed by freshman Marcus Foster with 15 and junior Thomas Gipson with 12.
In his home game debut, freshman Jevon Thomas dished out a game-leading six assists and used his speed and craftiness on the court to help K-State to its victory.
"Jevon definitely gives us a different element," Weber said. "His quickness, his explosion, his defense changes our team, there's no doubt, and he's going to only get better and better."
For a full recap of yesterday afternoon's game, check out Southwell's Career Night Carries K-State Past GW.
2. K-State graduates 30 seniors
Eight of K-State's 16 athletics teams graduated seniors on Saturday, Dec. 14, with the football team's 13 graduates leading the pack.
From Hotel and Restaurant Management to Electrical Engineering to Animal Sciences, 16 different majors were represented in this fall's graduating class.
For a full list of this fall's student-athletes graduates and to read more about them, you can check out Sports Extra: K-State Graduated 30 Student-Athletes.
1. K-State celebrates its first bowl victory in 11 years
After defeating the Michigan Wolverines, 31-14, in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, the Wildcats claimed their first bowl victory since 2002, and the team finally finished its season on a high note.
"I'm extremely proud of all the young people in our program. I thought they played very well against a very, very fine football team," head coach Bill Snyder said after the game. "The University of Michigan is the winningest football program in the history of college football, right? They're never going to be a bad team. These young guys were victorious over a very fine football team."
Quarterback Jake Waters had perhaps his best game of the season by throwing for 271 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions while breaking the K-State bowl record for completions with 21. His 271 yards were fourth in Wildcat bowl history as he also added 42 yards on the ground. Senior running back John Hubert finished the game with 80 rushing yards, a number that pushed him past the 1,000-yard mark for the season - a long-time goal of his - as he completed his final campaign with 1,048 yards.
When the win was secured, Ryan Mueller chased down Snyder and gave him a much-deserved Gatorade bath to celebrate the victory.